The Evolving Path to the C-Suite

November 29, 2022 – No matter what you call it, the challenge is the same. Executives across all industries have been resigning at higher-than-expected rates, making it harder to attract, recruit and retain been-there-done-that talent. While many predicted a gap in leadership development and subsequent succession, no one anticipated the pandemic’s acceleration of resignations and market disruptors, according to a recent report from Salveson Stetson Group. And as economic headwinds collide with global unrest, companies that want to thrive must embrace ambiguity and adopt more non-traditional paths to the C-Suite.

“By developing an agile mindset, organizations can deploy a creative approach to running their businesses and rethink the type of executives needed for future success,” the Salveson Stetson Group report said. Having supported executive leadership searches for hundreds of companies across a variety of industry sectors, the search firm has identified three vital elements for shifting your thinking and winning the battle for talent.

Competencies Are the Key to Better Hiring

It’s common to believe you’ll reduce risk by choosing someone with experience in a similar role or environment. “However, experience doesn’t guarantee success, especially in an unpredictable world,” the Salveson Stetson Group report said. “Depending on the scope and complexity of the role, focusing on specific experiences severely reduces your candidate pool. This puts you at a disadvantage for attracting diverse candidates. Additionally, most candidates are considering multiple opportunities in this highly competitive talent market.”

The report notes that competency-based recruitment helps you curate prospects from various backgrounds who align with your organization’s strategic goals and unique market challenges while also expanding the reach of your search and increasing diversity on the slate. “Identifying the competencies and skills needed for success in the role lets you evaluate a candidate’s ability to scale that experience and drive measurable results,” the report said. “This means you’ll be well-positioned to find and attract a leader who will move your organization forward no matter the obstacle.”

The New Path to the C-Suite

Step-up candidates are leaders who demonstrate the potential to succeed in the role but have not previously held that position or served in the same organizational complexity or market scope, according to the Salveson Stetson Group report. “These leaders may or may not hold executive titles, but they have executed complex, enterprise-level responsibilities within committees or team-based initiatives in their current company,” the report said. “In fact, you may already have one or two step-up candidates sitting in your ranks. Be sure to look beyond those already being developed and avoid supporting outdated requirements that may be driving homogeny. Overall, this new perspective can help you look beyond simply filling the shoes of the incumbent. Rethink the role and skills needed to succeed in the future and consider the leader’s potential impact not on where you are but where you want to be as an organization—both from a business performance standpoint and culturally.”

Salveson Stetson Group notes that most companies striving for growth and innovation know diversity is essential to profitability, customer experience and employee engagement. “However, when you look across your organization or sector, chances are the bench of highly experienced executive talent is shallow at best.”

The firm explains that step-up candidates bring with them new and varied experiences that equate to competencies that are critical to success in an unknown future and which may not currently be on your radar, including:

  • Resilience
  • Learning Agility
  • Curiosity
  • Digital literacy

“Step-up executives tend to be more comfortable with uncertainty and driven by passion or hunger to succeed,” the report said. “It’s also important to note that the best way to attract and retain step-up candidates is to show how you plan to support and develop them as leaders.”

New Leader Installation

Executive transition impacts the entire organization, so there’s a real risk around choosing the right leader and setting them up for success. Creating a solid executive installation and onboarding plan reduces risk by more than half, regardless of the leader’s prior experience, according to the Salveson Stetson Group report. “The goal of the installation is to accelerate the leader’s effectiveness and positive impact on the organization,” the report said. “However, this process starts well before you begin recruitment through the creation of a success profile that identifies the competencies and skills needed to succeed.”

Related: Post-COVID Recovery Sees the Rise of Revenge Hiring

The success profile supports the design and execution of your search strategy, Salveson Stetson Group notes that this allows you to attract and curate an ideal candidate pool, evaluate candidates’ future potential and identify their development gaps so you can make informed decisions throughout the selection process. “Beyond that, the profile allows you to develop an onboarding and installation plan that supports and accelerates the new leader’s integration and ability to drive short and long-term results,” the report said. “Despite the unknowns that lie ahead, the hiring environment is changing. But you can stay a step ahead by mindfully and intentionally shifting how your company manages, supports and develops talent.”

Proven Search Consultants

Founded in 1996 by John Salveson and Ms. Stetson, Salveson Stetson Group is today a multi-specialty search firm which places senior executives in a wide range of business positions, including: general management, sales, marketing, finance, operations, and human resources. The firm has several specialty practices in human resources and finance, with specialty practices in the life sciences and wholesale distribution sectors.

Ms. Stetson brings more than two decades of experience as an executive search consultant. She has worked across diverse industries including life sciences and pharmaceutical, healthcare systems, manufacturing, telecommunications, non-profit and professional services. Ms. Stetson also serves as practice leader for the firm’s human resources specialty practice. Prior to co-founding her firm, Ms. Stetson served as vice president of client services for Right Management Consultants and as vice president of W.K. Gray and Associates, an executive search firm. She also held senior human resources management positions at Thomas Jefferson University.

Related: The Importance of Setting Proper Diversity Targets

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; and Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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